Maher Ibrahim, head nurse on Emek Medical Center’s Covid ward. (Emek Medical Center)

Muslim nurse who said ‘Shema’ with dying Jewish patient to light Independence Day torch in Israel’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations.

By Abigail Klein Leichman, ISRAEL21c

Muslim male nurse Maher Ibrahim heads the nursing staff of Emek Medical Center’s Covid-19 ward where severely ill and ventilated patients fight for their lives.

Ibrahim was on duty recently when a religious elderly Jewish patient was nearing his end.

Emek spokesman Larry Rich describes the poignant scene to illustrate how coexistence pervades daily life in Israel even if it doesn’t always make headlines.

“The patient’s family would not make it in time for the inevitable farewell. Maher, trained in Jewish studies, applied his knowledge and deeply empathic spirit at that critical moment,” Rich tells ISRAEL21c.

“In a phone call with the man’s family, Maher the Muslim nurse recited aloud in Hebrew the Shema Yisrael prayer –‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.’

“His act of loving empathy, kindness and understanding went far beyond the norms of nursing and in that brilliant timeless moment, he personified the spirit of Emek and Israel,” Rich says.

Ibrahim’s action touched a national chord. He has been invited to light one of 12 flames that will usher in this year’s official 73rd Independence Day celebrations at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl on the night of April 14.

This is an honor, Rich reminds us, “bestowed upon those who represent the best within our society.”

Among other torch lighters this year will be Yaish Giat, a 102-year-old spice shop owner originally from Yemen; Shira Iskov, a survivor of domestic violence; and IDF Maj. Maor Cohen, who volunteers extensively with pediatric cancer patients and other populations in need

Emek Medical Center in Afula, in the historic Jezreel Valley, serves a patient base that is 50 percent Jewish and 50 percent Arab (including Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouins) as well as Circassians. The makeup of the staff reflects that diversity in a way that is quite common in Israeli hospitals.

“The living philosophy of Emek is coexistence through medicine,” says Rich. “This is the hope of Israel.”